Re-Working Your Resume? Ask Yourself These Questions First!
Too often, a resume is not as effective of a “professional marketing product” as it should be because there is a lack of reflection, strategy and customization (for specific job you are applying for) around the content! If you were tasked with writing a high-profile status report to provide senior leadership, would you start writing the full report before first thinking through key objectives, achievements/milestones, challenges/risks/roadblocks and other pertinent information you want to ensure is portrayed?
Before you dive into creating the comprehensive “product,” think through some of these questions, which can help ensure you’re communicating the most important aspects of your experience, skills, accomplishments, differentiators and additional qualifications as effectively as possible!
- What is/was the “purpose” and impact of my current/recent
role? How did it support/benefit the organization?
Companies and Managers are all about the ROI (return on investment) these days, and want to see the impact your role had on the team, group, organization, bottom line, end client, etc. Ensure you’re including context around direct contributions your efforts made.
- What are the common job titles of the types of positions I’ve
recently held? What are the common job titles the market (Recruiters,
HR, Managers, etc.) are associating with my skill set?
Especially recognizing that passing an ATS (applicant tracking system) is usually the first step; your resume needs to include the appropriate jargon. Get an understanding of the main titles your role/job function goes by in the marketplace and ensure accurate representation in your resume.
- What types of positions am I interested in? What do I want
my career path to look like? What kind of role do I want next? What
are my short-term (6-12 months) and long-term (3-5 years) goals?
Understanding your target path can help with shaping several categories of your resume, including Objective/Overview, Skills Summary, Career Achievements, and/or responsibilities within each job description. Reflection on this question will also help you adequately express your interest during an interview. This is very important as a common reason qualified candidates are ruled out is due to a “perceived lack of interest.”
- What am I most proud of? What are my main professional accomplishments
over the last 5-8 years? What do I consider to be my top 3-5 career highlights?
Which achievements align with the types of jobs I’m interviewing for?
What are the major projects I’ve been a part of? What key contributions
have I made to those projects? Did I receive any recognition from them?
Resumes and interviewing should be times for “success story telling,” where you’re tactfully highlighting the key accomplishments you’ve had that would be impressive against the role/s you’re interviewing for. Take the time to think through high-profile projects/initiatives you’ve been involved with, what you accomplished, the impact it had (i.e. demonstrating that very important ROI piece), how you did it, who you did it with, and any lessons learned along the way.
- What are my top 3-5+ skills? Which of these skills are currently
the most sought after by companies? What are the major
technologies I have experience with that are showing up in job postings/descriptions
Within each discipline (i.e. type of role/job function), there are skills, technologies, versions, approaches, etc. that are currently “in demand.” It is imperative to not only understand your core competencies, but also know which of those are being highly sought after by organizations. If you identify a technology you don’t currently possess that is in demand, take the time to complete some online courses on it and/or download and use in your home environment to get personal experience.
- What relevant educational, certification, and training background
do I have?
Identify and then effectively portray your education, certifications and additional training courses you’ve taken. For certifications, especially those in demand, don’t hide them at the end of your resume. In addition to listing them under an ‘Education, Certifications, and Training’ category on your resume, list the certification and/or advanced degree next to your name at the top of your resume (e.g. “James Smith, PMP, MBA”). List out any relevant courses you took under education, especially if you’re more entry-mid level
- What are the responsibilities I took on in my last job that were
not part of the original job description? Previous job descriptions?
One of our favorite go-to interview questions to ask is “Tell me about a responsibility you had in your last job that wasn’t part of your original job description.” A candidate’s answer to this communicates initiative, i.e. did they seek out more responsibilities and/or take on more that was asked of them by management/clients? Determine some of these extra tasks and then ensure you are communicating them in your resume.
- Do I have any examples of my work showcased online? Or other
examples or assessments that aren’t proprietary which could be shared?
Do I have record/soft copies of any awards I’ve received throughout
You can “talk the talk” during a resume and via your LinkedIn or other online profile, but supplying examples of you “walking the walk” can do wonders for your candidacy, as it directly shows the Manager/s what you’re capable of. Try to identify at least one piece of “candidate marketing material” that you can supply with your resume, LinkedIn profile URL and/or GitHub profile URL. This may include recommendations, technical assessment results, soft copies of awards you have won, links to online publications, etc.
- Besides my hands-on professional/work experience, am I involved
in anything else that would potentially look good to employers? Any community
involvement? Conference attendance?
Surprisingly, User Group/MeetUp involvement, and attendance at conferences, is often left off resumes. Involvement in your technology community and/or attendance at conferences looks very good on a resume as it communicates your interest and passion and shows you are keeping current!
- Have I acted in a senior, leadership, mentorship, etc. capacity?
What skills did I exercise with that? How many people did I lead/mentor?
What management/executive level interaction have I had? Who? What
did I do?
Two additional aspects that look positive include your involvement acting as a leader and/or engaging with senior leadership. Think through any high-level/C-suite interaction you’ve had plus any experience in the hiring process and training/mentoring, and include that experience both in the body of your job description/s and in the Skills Summary.
When drafting or updating your resume, put on your “candidate marketing hat!” Part of marketing is being strategic and reflecting on the key pieces that should be encompassed while marketing yourself through your resume and any online profiles.
- When it comes time to write or update your resume, ask yourself the above
questions first, jot down your thoughts, and then make your resume additions/customizations.
Consider asking someone else in your network that’s well-versed on your
professional life some of these questions as well, to ensure all of your bases
are covered and your resume includes the best examples and highlights of your
experience! This exercise will help ensure none of your contributions
or differentiators are overlooked.
- If you have any work examples, references, additional profiles, etc. highlighted
on a GitHub profile, LinkedIn profile, YouTube channel, personal website, or
portfolio, make sure you add that URL to the top of your resume under your contact
information. Do not forget to add speaking engagements, such as presenting
at a local SQL Server user group meeting or SQL Saturday event as well.
- Ensure you’ve identified your 3-5+ top career accomplishments, that
relate to the types of jobs you’re now applying for, and think through
your “success story telling” approach.
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